Defendants incriminate themselves if they offer direct or indirect evidence that they committed a crime. Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, defendants in the United States are under no obligation to incriminate themselves.
Examples of Self-Incrimination
If the police question an individual at the police station, some of the individual’s answers might incriminate them. For example, the police might ask if the person was present at the scene of the crime. If that individual admits that he was there, he might risk incriminating himself.
A straightforward example of self-incrimination involves a defendant who tells the police that he committed a crime. Most examples of self-incrimination are not as apparent.
An experienced criminal attorney can help a defendant avoid self-incrimination. A person should always seek the advice of a lawyer before providing information to the police or the prosecution.
The Fifth Amendment Protects Criminal Defendants
A person who is interrogated by police does not have to provide answers. The Bill of Rights in the Constitution is designed to protect the rights of citizens. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, in particular, allows people in the U.S. to remain silent when police question them. Those who are arrested are only required to give basic identification information such as their name. The police are prohibited from compelling people to incriminate themselves.
A person questioned by the police or the prosecution can invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions until he has his lawyer present. A criminal lawyer can give guidance to a defendant and advise him on which questions are appropriate to answer.
A Defendant Can Waive the Fifth Amendment
Defendants have the right to refuse to answer questions to avoid self-incrimination. However, they may choose to waive this right in some instances.
Under most circumstances, police read a defendant his Miranda Rights (also known as Miranda Warnings) when they charge him with a crime. Miranda Rights come from a U.S. Supreme Court decision called Miranda v. Arizona. They inform defendants that they do not have to speak with the police. If a defendant does speak to the police, whatever he says can be used against him in a court of law.
A defendant who knowingly waives the protections of the Fifth Amendment and provides self-incriminating information must live with the consequences of his decision.
For more information regarding self-incrimination and the Fifth Amendment, talk to the attorneys at the Miller Law Group, PLLC by calling 713-866-6233.